The Talent Code

The Talent Code

As a matter of disclosure, I read this book as part of the Credit Union Leaders Book Club group on LinkedIn. I serve as one of the moderators for the group.

In this book Daniel Coyle introduces us to myelin. The book is divided into three sections – Deep Practice, Ignition and Master Coaching. Click here for a link to a Nightline YouTube video that addresses the subject of myelin in the context of The Talent Code.

Daniel Coyle

He describes myelin in the following manner:

  • Every human movement, thought or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers.
  • Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed and accuracy.
  • The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

He proposes to redefine the phrase “practice makes perfect.” The new definition is practice makes myelin and myelin makes perfect. The principles of myelin are:

  1. The firing of the circuit is paramount.
  2. Myelin is universal.
  3. Myelin wraps – it doesn’t unwrap.
  4. Age matters.

I’m on the downhill side of myelin production so it takes a little longer for my circuits to build. This is true especially when it comes to the rapid pace of new technology developments. On the other hand, I have found that it remains relatively easy to build circuits in the nontechnical areas. I believe that this is partially due to the fact that my StrengthFinders 2.0 profile main characteristic is Learner. So, for those of you still under 50 (or 60 for that matter), don’t waste the opportunity to build your circuitry.

At the end of the first section he expounds on the three rules of deep practice:

Rule One: Chunk It Up

The emphasis on this rule is to first absorb the whole thing. Spend time looking and an/or listening to the desired skill. The next step is to then break it down into chunks and practice the skill until it is achieved and then move on to the next chunk and eventually you will achieve a complete success from beginning to end.

Rule Two – Repeat It

This rule espouses Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory from his book Outliers (also a good read). The need to repeatedly practice the new skill(s) over and over to achieve mastery.

Rule Three – Learn to Feel It

For this rule it is the ability through repeated practice to realize mistakes and correct them. The cycle is:

  1. Pick a target.
  2. Reach for it.
  3. Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach.
  4. Return to step one.

The second section, Ignition, deals with what it takes to ignite deep practice – motivational fuel.

He talks about the different triggers that create motivational fuel – in South Korea it was Se Ri Pak winning the LPGA championship and in Russia it was Anna Kournikova reaching the semifinals of Wimbleton. He notes that it takes time as indicated on the chart on page 99.

He describes ignition as a hot, mysterious burst, an awakening that leads to deep practice.

The excerpt from “Tom Sawyer” is an excellent example of flipping the trigger and causing ignition to take place (not to mention creating the opportunity to sit back and supervise, but that’s for another day).

He also looked at those who lost a parent early in life and those who at the bottom of the line in birth order within their families and the resulting way that it ignited them on to deep practice and success.

Master Coaching deals with the role of effective coaching in assisting with the concepts of deep practice and igniting the fire. Effective coaching is not about compliments or statements of displeasure, but about what to do, how to do it, and when to intensify the activity. These are short statements most lasting less than 20 seconds. Examples are from John Wooden: “Take the ball softly; you’re receiving a pass, not intercepting it.” “Hard driving, quick steps.”  His overall  approach was more this, not that and here, not there rather than speeches and chalk talks. It was modeling the right way to do something, demonstrated the incorrect way and the remodeled the right way.

I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a focus on how the development of the biological and chemical processes in our brain help to develop talent. A great companion book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It contains several more examples of deep practice, ignition and master coaching.


About caseywheeler

My interests include: Model trains, Reading, Genealogy, New York Yankees and helping organizations be successful.
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